“Singing for the brain” in Swindon

Music has the ability to capture emotion and stimulate the brain like few other mediums. And because the part of the brain that governs our response to music is one of the last to be affected by dementia, the power of music and song to help those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can be profound.

Singing for the brain is an initiative run by the Alzheimer's Society based on the principles of music therapy. The aim is to bring people with dementia and their carers together to sing in a fun, friendly and stimulating environment where they can express themselves and socialise with others in a supportive group.

In the video clip below, Chreanne Montgomery-Smith,one of the founders of Singing for the Brain, explains more about how the sessions are run, while several participants talk about the enjoyment and feeling of wellbeing they experience from attending the sessions.

If you fancy giving it a go, there are 3 local Singing for the brain groups in Swindon and the surrounding area.
Details are below, but for up-to-date information on the dates and times of the sessions, contact the Alzheimer's Society - contact telephone01249 443469 (Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm.) contact emailswindon@alzheimers.org.uk

Singing for the Brain Swindon
St Andrews Church Centre, Raleigh Avenue,  Walcot, Swindon  SN3 3DZ

Singing for the Brain Swindon Freshbrook
Freshbrook Community Centre, Village Centre, Freshbrook, Swindon SN5 8LY

Singing for the Brain Malmesbury
The Actiity Zone Leisure Centre, Bremilham Road, Malmesbury SN16 0DQ

Swindon research team provide global breakthrough in tackling dementia

The news this week has been full of the potential breakthroughs in the treatment of dementia announced at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Washington. After a decade of research dead-ends, the announcement brings new hope, and as Beren Cross reports for This is Wiltshire.co.uk Swindon is at the very heart of developments....

DOCTORS and nurses in Swindon are at the centre of a medical breakthrough which has discovered not one, but two drugs which may delay dementia.

A team at the Kingshill Research Centre, which is one of the nation’s leading academic centres in dementia research, has been testing the two drugs for the past five years and had a breakthrough.

The team from Victoria Centre. Photo courtesy of Thisis Wiltshire.co.uk

At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington DC last week, it was revealed solanezumab and Starbeam were two medications proven to slow down the debilitating effects of the disease.

Whilst solanezumab caught much of the international media attention, Dr Simon Manchip, clinical director for psychiatry in Swindon, believes the data presented for that drug was over-optimistic.

He said there was a 50 per cent drop out in patients on the solanezumab trial, which distorts the data presented, whereas Starbeam was much more promising.

Aricept is one of four licensed medications used around the world for dementia, but fades over time. Research suggests Starbeam boosts Aricept and allows people to live better lives, for longer.

The breakthroughs were the talk of the international conference and have given the team, based at Great Western Hospital’s Victoria Centre, a shot in the arm as they continue with their cutting edge research.

“It keeps you going because day in, day out, you are looking after people with dementia and at times it can be trying,” said Dr Manchip.

“We are simultaneously trying to move forward and find new treatments for such a destructive condition.

“It gives you momentum to carry on.”

The doctor has high hopes Starbeam will be brought to market in three years time, if test results continue to follow the current trend.

The team in Swindon collates its own testing group of patients from across the region and has led the way in dementia trials throughout the past 20 years, playing a role in the licensing of four different drugs down the line.

Emma Murray, clinical trial administrator, said: “When the study started in 2010 we recruited ten patients who participated in a monthly infusion.

“We are now about to enter the next phase of the study and look forward to being able to give more service users the opportunity to be involved in dementia research studies.”

The centre supports National Institute for Health research’s Join Dementia Research campaign, where readers can register their interest in participating in dementia research.

For more information, visit: joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk.

Article originally published on www.thisiswiltshire.co.uk 30/7/15

Getting to grips with some legal questions…

A diagnosis of dementia inevitably raises questions about your future care needs, and how these can best be met. The legal systems that must be negotiated can feel like a real obstacle course, so the need for clear, straightforward information is obvious, yet not always easy to find.

Having provided advice to many families trying to work through this difficult process, Laker Legal Solicitors decided to create a no-nonsense  guide which provides an easy to understand breakdown of the legal and financial implications around the choices people with dementia and their families may need to make as their dementia progresses over time. We're pleased to be able to share their guide with you here.

Dementia Open days at Great Western Hospital

Find out more about dementia with the Great Western Hospital

Image- Swindon hospital

To do their bit for Dementia Awareness Week, Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is  welcoming people in to find out more about dementia.

On Monday May 18 and Tuesday 19 May, experts from the Trust will be available in the Main Atrium to answer your questions about dementia and share details of some of the hospital’s dementia services.

Carers of people living with dementia are invited to come along and find out what support is available to them from the many dementia support groups that work across Swindon and Wiltshire.

On Tuesday 19 May and Thursday 21 May  information stands will also be on display to help people find out about the work of the Trust’s Palliative Care team, who have recently made changes to their end-of-life care programme, as well as the new Outpatient Welcome and Liaison Service (OWLS), which helps people with dementia find their way around hospital when attending appointments.

Sarah White, Consultant Geriatrician and Clinical Lead for Dementia, explained to the Wiltshire Times: “Dementia Awareness Week is an important fixture in our calendar as it provides us with the opportunity to increase the public’s understanding of this condition and to remind people that there’s always more to a person than just their dementia.”

“There has been a great deal of work within the Trust over the last 12 months to improve the services and care we provide to patients with dementia. By continuing to raise awareness and understanding, more people are able to receive a timely diagnosis which allows them to plan for their future.”

Visitors will be able to learn about the Trust’s new dementia friendly ward, Jupiter, which opened in November 2014 following a £98,000 renovation project, funded by the Trust’s charity Brighter Futures.
The Jupiter Ward team will be on hand to discuss the recent changes, as well as showcasing some of the tools they use every day, such as the This Is Me passport, which gives staff an overview of a patient’s likes, dislikes and usual routine, resulting in more personalised care.

Wendy Johnson, Matron for Older Person’s Care, said: “The changes made to Jupiter are having a real impact on patients, with fewer now suffering from falls thanks in part to the ward’s new non-shiny floor. This ultimately helps people to recover quickly, meaning less time is spent in hospital.”

Stay up-to-date with all the latest from the week and to get in touch with the Trust’s Dementia Care team on Twitter at

Will you do something new for Dementia Awareness Week? 17-24 May

Image- #do something new

Did you know it’s Dementia Awareness Week
on 17- 24th May?

The event is organised each year by the Alzheimer’s Society to raise the public profile of those affected by  dementia and of course do plenty of much needed fund-raising.

The theme this year is #Do Something New!

At Alzheimer’s Society, we believe that life doesn’t end when dementia begins, and we do everything we can to help people living with dementia hold onto their lives and the things they love for longer.


We also believe it’s possible to do new things and have new experiences, too. And that’s what this year’s Dementia Awareness Week is all about.”

So we are all being set a challenge…
‘Can you ‘do something new’?

It could be something as simple as trying a new food you’ve never eaten before to fulfilling a lifelong ambition, like running a marathon!! If you need a few ideas, click here for the society’s list of suggestions but remember the sky’s the limit!

And do take a look at the website where they share the #Do Something New stories of 3 of their supporters who haven’t let dementia get in the way of following their dreams and finding fulfilment. Ken, Margaret and Ian’s stories are truly inspirational so take a peep!

Feeling inspired?

Great! Be sure to have fun…and don’t be afraid to share ‘your something new’ on social media using the hashtags #DoSomethingNew and #DAW2015. You might just inspire a few others!

Click here for further details of
Dementia Awareness Week 2015

Does a diagnosis of dementia mean an immediate end to driving?

Senior woman driving a car slowly in highway

“Do I have to stop driving?”
is a frequently asked question when people first receive a diagnosis of dementia

Although driving may feel like an automatic activity to experienced motorists, it actually requires complex interactions between eyes, brain and muscles, along with rapid reaction responses to deal with unexpected circumstances. As dementia takes hold, the skills needed for driving will inevitably be impeded and, at some point, the decision will have to be made to stop driving.

The timing of this decision will be different for each individual, and if diagnosis is made early, it needn’t necessarily be at the point of diagnosis. Some drivers continue driving safely for several years after dementia has first been confirmed.

What is essential, immediately after diagnosis, is that you inform both the DVLA and your insurance company of the diagnosis – not to do so is a criminal offence and will invalidate your insurance policy leaving you uninsured.

After that, it’s a question of judging whether safety is compromised. Your GP will be able to offer advice and a special driving assessment which aims to assess the impact the dementia is having on the safety and performance of the driver may be required.

Hard as it may be to accept, the following list
provides the warning signs that it’s time to stop driving:

  • Forgetting how to locate familiar places
  • Failing to observe traffic signs
  • Making slow or poor decisions in traffic
  • Driving at an inappropriate speed
  • Becoming angry or confused while driving
  • Hitting curbs
  • Using poor lane control
  • Making errors at junctions
  • Confusing the brake and gas pedals
  • Returning from a routine drive later than usual
  • Forgetting the destination you are driving to during the trip

Recognising these signs, some drivers quickly begin to find driving stressful and make the decision to stop relatively easily. All too often however, people with dementia tend to underestimate the impact the disease is having on their driving ability, and become angry and resentful when it is suggested they give up driving. Some even simply forget that the DVLA has ruled they must stop.

In these cases, it’s likely to fall on friends and family members to step in and take control.

Forward planning really  helps so that other transport options (such as taxis, shop-mobility, and local community transport schemes) can be explored before giving up driving entirely.

What’s important is that  loss of driving doesn’t feel like a loss of independence.
Support, patience and understanding will all be needed, but an end to driving should not feel like the end of the road.

How to make your home a dementia-friendly space

When faced with a diagnosis of dementia, one of the most immediate concerns people have is that confusion and memory loss will prevent them from continuing to live safely in their own home. Yet, with the right support, and some basic design and lay-out alterations, much can be done to transform the physical space in the home into an environment that is both safety conscious AND fosters independence.

Senior women enjoying meal together at homeWhere to start?

Knowing where to start is probably the hardest part. When assessing your home, the 2 key questions to ask are:

What hazards exist that can easily be removed?

What adaptations can be made that will foster independence?

Using research conducted by the Dementia Services Development Centre at the University of Stirling, and the national housing charity, Care & Repair England, we’ve collected together some useful suggestions for considering possible changes.  We’ve arranged them under the 3 headings to get you started:

  • General design and layout
  • Lighting and heating
  • Safety and security

Look at each room in turn and don’t get overwhelmed – remember even 1 or 2 small changes can have a significant impact.

 The Design and Layout of your home:


  • Consider the layout of each room. Simply eliminating clutter and unneeded furniture can make route-ways to and from the door, or across the room, more readily recognisable, and ensure movement is easier and safer.
  • Mirrors can cause confusion, particularly as the dementia progresses, so covering or moving them may help.
  • Closed doors, particularly in a confined space such as a hallway or landing, may be disorientating. Although it may seem drastic, removing them to create a more open-plan layout can reduce confusion and distress.

Possible Adaptations:

  • Use of contrasting colours can assist with finding your way around the home and remembering what things are meant to be used for. For example, dark coloured bed linen against cream walls and carpet will really stand out, as would a dark coloured toilet seat or handrail against a white bathroom suite. Plain colours work better than patterns and you can use this idea to highlight any object you want easily noticed…light switches, cutlery on the table, door handles etc.
  • Rearranging chairs to make it possible to look out of the window or watch what other people in the house are doing, can provide stimulation and help maintain social contact.
  • Put away infrequently used items and try to keep cupboards and surfaces uncluttered so that the important, much used objects are easier to spot.
  • Using see-through containers, glass fronted doors or open shelves will make things easier than having to remember where something is behind a closed cupboard door.

Lighting and Heating:


  • Shadows and dark areas can increase the incidence of hallucinations so ensuring good lighting (whether natural and electric) without excessive brightness or shadow is important.
  • Cookers and fires can become potential fire hazards as the dementia progresses. All fires should be fitted with a fire guard, and if possible, an isolation valve should be fitted to a gas fire or cooker to ensure it can only be turned on if a carer is there to supervise use.

 Possible Adaptations:

  • Try to maximise natural daylight as this provides important information about the time of day.
  • Timers and motion-sensitive sensors can be useful to ensure adequate lighting at night.
  • Consider installing central heating with thermostatic controls that will automatically come on if the temperature drops below a certain level rather than having to rely on manual controls.

 Safety and Security:


  • Minimize the risk of falls by installing handrails on stairs, grab rails on steps, and remove rugs or loose carpets that could prove a tripping danger.
  • Fitting a KeySafe on to an outside wall enables the front door to be kept locked at all times. Relatives, friends and carers who know the KeySafe code can access the keys and still enter the property when needed.

 Possible Adaptations:

  • Make sure a smoke alarm is fitted – preferably mains operated so you don’t need to worry about replacing batteries.
  • Bathrooms can become a high accident risk area and hygiene needs to be a priority.

Colour coding important equipment such as grab rails, toothbrush, and even soap can help as a memory aid, and grab rails and a toilet riser can provide physical support. Many older people find using a bath difficult so it is worth considering fitting a level access shower or wet room. Getting this done as early as possible enables you to learn how to use it, helping maintain independence as long as possible, and then makes it easier for carers later on. Sensors can be fitted to the skirting boards so that if the taps are left running and cause a flood, the system will shut off the water and raise the alarm. Specially designed plugs are also available that drain water should a tap be left running.

  • There is an ever growing range of equipment, gadgets and pressure-pad and motion sensors linked by a telephone line to a nominated person or call centre that can alert a carer to a potential problem.

Useful sources of information on the latest aids available, which can be accessed by clicking in the link below, are:

The Disabled Living Foundation’s website www.asksara.dlf.org.uk

ATDementia www.atdementia.org.uk

Assist UK www.assist-uk.org



Getting out and about with confidence

Senior couple standing outside house
A diagnosis of dementia should not discourage anyone getting out and about in the early stages of the disease. Trips within the immediate neighbourhood provide a good source of exercise, relieve boredom and stress, ease aches and pains and provide opportunity for social engagement – all of which are vital in contributing to a feeling of general wellbeing and improved mood.
By putting in place a few simple precautions, much can be done to improve safety and alleviate fears of disorientation, confusion and getting lost.

1. Fit a KeySafe
A KeySafe is a small secure box fitted to the outside of the house in which you can keep a spare door key. The lock is activated by a 4 digit code. This can be useful if you go out and then realise you’ve forgotten your door key. Write down the number code and keep it in your purse or wallet so you’ve got it to refer to, and make sure someone nearby knows the code as well (perhaps a trusted neighbour or close friend you could ring should the need arise).

2. Consider external door sensors and reminder messages
Pressure pads can be fitted under the door mat, or on the bottom of the door itself, that can sound an alarm (to you, or via a telephone line to a nominated person or call centre) if the door is left open or play a pre-recorded and personalised message, reminding you to pick up your keys, put on a coat, remember your mobile phone, lock up etc.. as you go out. AT Dementia’s website shows some of the assistive technologies available and is recommended by the Alzheimer’s Society as a useful source of information – www.atdementia.org.uk

3. Carry a mobile phone or a tracking device
Having a simple mobile phone with a loved one’s phone number stored in it and easily accessible, can provide valuable reassurance, as can having location finder technology built into either your phone or a separate tracking device. This enables your location to be tracked on a computer or mobile phone by a friend or relative if you were expected home but appear to have gone missing. Most devices also have a panic button built-in should you become lost or disorientated.

4. Wear Identification
Some people carry an identification card containing details of their own name and address, and the phone number of someone who could be contacted should it become necessary. This information can also be contained in a wristband that can be worn all the time, alleviating worries about forgetting to take it with you. The Alzheimer’s Association recommend MedicAlert who provide an identification systems for adults where jewellery is engraved with details of the person’s condition, an ID number and a 24 hour emergency phone number – www.medicalert.org.uk

5. Use familiar local landmarks
Many people with dementia find that their recognition for familiar landmarks in the locality helps them find their way home safely. Following a familiar route that contains landmarks triggers deep memory. It may be helpful to photograph these landmarks then use these make a simple picture map tracing the route back from a place you visit often. The map reminding you of your way back from the local shop, may, for instance show photos of the hairdressers, followed by the café, the war memorial, then the street sign at the end of the road.

Getting out and about in the local area are important factors in maintaining a sense of purpose and wellbeing. Adopting these precautions will hopefully ease your own concerns, help reassure carers, and most importantly prolong independence for as long as possible.